Shopping‎ > ‎

Manfuacturer Notes

This is a collection of notes about my favorite sites selling miniatures useful for naval gaming.

1/2400 WWII, and 1/2400 WWI which includes some pre-dreadnought-era vessels that were still active in WWI. Proportions of many models are be a bit odd, masts and cranes are fragile, assembly of tiny parts can be very fiddly and frustrating, and details are greatly exaggerated for the scale, but these have some of the greatest visual impact of any miniatures in this scale. The oversized details also make these extremely easy to paint using simple techniques like washes and drybrushing. A properly painted GHQ 1/2400 warship can be stunning to look at.
1/1200 Napoleonic sailing vessels, with extremely nice proportions and crisp details.

1/1200 vessels for the Napoleonic Wars, Anglo-Dutch Wars, American Civil War, Renaissance Mediterranean, Ancient Mediterranean, War of 1812 Great Lakes fleets, and 18th Century Baltic navies (mostly the unusual and unique Russian and Swedish small craft for coastal and shallow water operations).
1/200 WWI coastal boats and floatplanes.
1/300 ancient galleys and (smaller) Napoleonic vessels.

1/2400 WWII and WWI, very clean sculpts, and nice white metal castings. Probably the best proportions and scaled detail in white metal, but gun barrels tend to be very thin and therefore very fragile. Some of the WWI cruisers are a bit small, but generally these miniatures are scale-compatible with other 1/2400 manufacturers.
1/4800 WWII. If that sounds too small, take a look at these photos and see if you change your mind. For many years, this incomplete line from C-in-C was the only offering in this scale, but recently there are zillions cropping up on Shapeways, so now you can build huge fleets of very small ships for WWII gaming.

1/2400 WWII, WWI, pre-dreadnoughts, post-WWII, including a very large and impressive selection of civilian and auxiliary vessels.
Sculpting quality is highly variable, though few are really bad. Most castings for eras up through WWI and many of the warships in the interwar and WWII periods are a bit "melted", crudely detailed, and tend to have somewhat odd proportions, but many of the WWII civilian and auxiliary vessels and the post-WWII vessels are simply brilliant, matched only by GHQ and WTJ. That said, I still find many of the cruder castings delightful and find they look pretty nice if painted and dressed up carefully.

Began as a manufacturer of 1/3000 white metal pre-dreadnought era vessels, but has since fully converted to 3D printing and now offers a growing line of pre-dreadnought and WWI vessels and shore batteries in plastic, in multiple scales. The cheapest scales are 1/3000 and 1/2400, but all the 3D prints can also be ordered in 1/1800 and 1/1500, and a growing percentage have started to appear in 1/1250 and 1/1000 scale. Note that the cost of the models rises dramatically as the scale goes up.
1/1200 scale ancients, Renaissance, Age of Sail and ACW naval.
1/3000 scale Anglo-Dutch Wars, Napoleonic naval, and steam-era vessels from about the ACW up through the Cold War.
Both scales include some bits of shore terrain, mostly harbor stuff. You can't build an entire city, but you can make the docks of a port.
Navwar has to have the most complete line of miniature vessels in existence, not only including vast numbers of unique, rare and civilian vessels, but also "what if" and "almost were" vessels. The castings tend to be crude, but functional and very cheap.
Navwar is a venerable member of the wargaming community. This shop may not be around much longer; the owner is in his 80s and scaling back. Hopefully he'll sell the molds and masters to someone else to carry on when he's done.
1/2400 ACW through the modern era.
These are very plain, gray, epoxy castings. They are extremely tough and durable, but take considerable dressing up to look nice. They are also somewhat overscale and don't mix well with the same ships from other manufacturers, so if you're going to add Panzerschiffes to a fleet made by a mix of manufacturers, make sure all the vessels of the same class are either Panzerschiffe or not Panzerschiffe.
1/3000 scale WWI, WWII and modern naval.
1/600 Renaissance galleys, Armada ships, and a pretty large range of ancient ships (both galleys and sailing craft).
Some larger scales of niche period stuff, like 1/350 moderns, 1/700 MTBs, etc.
There used to be more, but much of it was sold off to save the company after a financial crisis.
Nothing Skytrex sells is very high quality, and it tends to be a bit pricey for what you get, but I admit I like the Armada period ships once I do a few customizations and paint them nicely.
Former Skytrex ranges of 1/1200 Napoleonic sail, ACW naval and transitional sail/steam ships (steam-powered wooden 2- and 3-deck ships of the line, frigates, sloops, some ironclad frigates, etc.)

Houston's Ironclads
This is an old line of 1/1000 ship models that was long since sold off and is now broken up into two ranges sold by separate manufacturers. Great Endeavors sells the post-ACW through pre-dreadnought models, and Wargaming Miniatures sells the ACW models. The original sculptor (Richard Houston) was rather indifferent about scale accuracy, so the models range in actual scale between 1/1200 and 1/900, with a mean size close to 1/1000. In the ACW era it is possible to use many of the wooden boats as generic steamers of the mid-to-late 19th C., since these varied in size anyway, and many of the riverboats and smaller wooden warships really are rendered close to 1/1200 scale. Most of the ironclads and pre-dreadnoughts are much closer to 1/1000 scale and will not mix with 1/1200 scale miniatures from other manufacturers. All that said, the original Houston's sculpts are delightful to look at and the prices from Wargaming Miniatures are hard to beat. If you decide to invest in the Houston's Ironclads, you should be able to cheaply build sizeable fleets before resorting to scratch building or alternative manufacturers like Black Smoke, Blue Water and War Times Journal to round out the collection.

I got excited about the Old Glory 1/300 Armada ships when they came out, but I ordered one and was disappointed. The resin casting had a lot of air bubbles and flaws that needed filling, and for all its size, the detail wasn't all that great. Worse, the metal sails and masts made the model very tippy, since the resin hull is too light to be a good counterweight. One excellent thing about 1/300 is that it's possible to crew your models with the huge variety of 1/300 figures available, but since naval gaming for me is about maneuvering, I rejected these as being too impractical to game with (in addition to being expensive and time-consuming to build into a fleet). I've also seen the Napoleonic line in person, and my impressions were the same.

I was also excited by the 1/600 scale pre-dreadnoughts when they came out, but had a similar negative epiphany before I ordered even one. These models can look absolutely gorgeous when done nicely (take a look at these photos, and try to keep your jaw off the floor), but they are just too big to game with in any way I'd like, and a very expensive and time-consuming way to build a pre-dreadnought fleet. All that said, if this range of models included a lot more (a LOT more) of the "late ironclad" designs from the weirdest era of transitional designs (1870s and 1880s), I'd probably blow a wad of cash on them. Until the mid-1890s, speeds were low (10-15 kts), ranges were short (a mile or less), and fleets were small (a few ironclads max), so 1/600 scale would be reasonable for gaming the era and a perfect size to show off the odd and interesting features of the experimental designs in operation. I would love to have the Dandolo and Duilio in 1/600 scale.

The concept of the 1/2400 Trafalgar range (Napoleonic ships) is nice - one piece castings with ratlines included - but the execution is blobby and disproportionate. If I were starting over today and looking for 1/2400 Age of Sail ships, I'd still choose the old Figurehead line over these, despite the extra fragility.

This site has far too many makers for me to list, and there are more added all the time, so I incorporated the links to Shapeways shops I like in the main shopping database page.

Caveat Emptor: it is impossible to tell from the 3D digital previews how well the model renders details and even proportions. You really need to examine them in good photos or in person to know. More than one item I've ordered has turned out to have almost no discernible details in the physical rendering.

The hard, clear acrylic currently called "Smooth Fine Detail Plastic" (originally "Fine Ultra Detail", aka "FUD") is the only good material offered for small scale miniatures like 1/1200 and smaller ships. It renders fine details quite well. It comes out of the box (printer?) transluscent, which can make it difficult to examine, but chemically cleaning the wax off the surface usually renders it fully opaque quite quickly. On the down side, this material is somewhat brittle as printed, and can get much worse if overexposed to chemicals. Examination under a microscope shows that the "opaquing" caused by chemical cleaning is actually the result of crazing of the surface with zillions of tiny cracks, and the longer the exposure to chemicals, the deeper these cracks go. Speaking from personal experience, some 1/2400 models I treated with Bestine overnight  became so brittle they could no longer be safely drilled, and tiny parts like 1/2400 smokestacks and bridges simply break off at the slightest pressure. In 2017 I cleaned a set of 1/200 Spitfires with a very short acetone bath; these also turned opaque white, but have remained tougher and flexible and seem to be retaining the paint, so perhaps this is sufficient.

The material currently called "White Natural Versaitle Plastic" (originally "White, Strong & Flexible", aka "WSF") is much tougher and more flexible, but always prints with a grainy surface and has a much greater tendency to show layer lines resulting from passes of the print head. I have seen quite a number of finished aircraft models in 1/200 and 1/144 scales rendered in this material, and they look much better after smoothing the surface, painting and applying decals. However, they also tend to have few fine details (few panel lines, no rivets) and the smoothing/filling process prior to painting is likely to remove some of what they come with.

The longevity of the Shapeways materials remains to be seen. I expect undercoats, paint and varnish to protect them from UV and airborne pollutants, but they are definitely susceptible to heat and possibly to cold. Even storing Shapeways plastic models in a hot car can cause warping and sagging, so be mindful of storage options and locations, and use bases of harder, more stable materials whenever possible (e.g. under waterline naval models).